Rift Amplification Elysium review: proving that fuzz doesn’t have to be fuzzy
Is a low-gain fuzz box less fun than a high-gain fuzz box? Not if it’s as cleverly designed and impeccably crafted as Rift’s latest creation.
Sometimes it seems like there’s an arms race going on in the world of fuzz. Who can make their pedal more fat, spluttery and plaster-crackingly fearsome than everyone else’s? But the second stompbox from esteemed British brand Rift Amplification takes a different approach… by playing it cool.
The Elysium is a low-gain fuzz – and in fact, you don’t even get to decide how low, because it’s fixed. The big idea? To combine the rich texture of a vintage noise machine with the clarity and dynamics of a modern overdrive.
The single knob on this little black box is for output level, accompanied by a tone-tweaking toggle switch marked ‘voice’. Assuming most people will set the level to match the bypass signal, that means the only variables to play with are that voicing switch – which promises a leaner, more scooped tone when flipped to the right – and your guitar’s volume control. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
This is a smaller unit than the Rift EL34 we reviewed back in 2021, but it shares the same discreetly handsome design style as that EQ/boost pedal. It also shares its ultra-tidy handwired construction, making the Elysium every bit as impressive on the inside as one of Rift’s amps: most of the ‘wires’ are actually component tails (so it’s proper point-to-point) and there are no loops or straggly bits, just neat perpendicular turns. If rock’n’roll ever does die, Rift supremo Chris Fantana should consider becoming a town planner.
Honestly, we were a bit sceptical about this one. A low-gain fuzz? With no option to crank up the mayhem? And no tone knob? How interesting can that possibly be? The answer, as we really should have known, is very interesting indeed – because Rift has gone and done it again.
If you’re after a reference point for the overall voicing of the Elysium, think Tone Bender midrange presence combined with Big Muff smoothness. The playing experience, however, is something altogether different. The thick, velvety nature of the distortion leaves us in no doubt we’re playing through a fuzz pedal; but while ‘low-gain’ is clearly a relative term, the feel is more relaxed and responsive than usual, with a crispness that lends itself brilliantly to choppy chords.
Hitting the voice switch brings a change akin to swapping Tom Jones for Billy Corgan… and believe it or not, we mean that in a good way. With humbuckers especially, the filtered sound is just as likeable and maybe just as useful, like a moderate dose of the ‘stuck wah’ effect but with your toe half an inch further down than usual. That biting tonality, tempered by the innate fluffiness of the fuzz itself, brings a result that’s great for punchy solos that cut through with real character.
Does the Elysium clean up as beautifully as a Fuzz Face when you back off on the guitar’s volume? Not quite, but there are some nice textures to explore in the semi-clean zone – enough to prove that a one-knob pedal really doesn’t have to be limiting. In fact, when it’s as well done as this one, it can be downright liberating.
- PRICE £199
- DESCRIPTION Low-gain fuzz pedal, made in the UK
- CONTROLS Output level, two-way voice switch
- FEATURES True bypass, powered by 9-volt mains supply only
- DIMENSIONS 125 x 60 x 55mm
- CONTACT riftamps.com